How many lines of “Dumb and Dumber” do you know? Can you remember this episode of “The Sopranos”? How new and underground is the music you’re listening to?
Unfortunately, lots of people do. People talking about sports, music, movies, and TV are always having little competitions to see who knows more or who has ‘better’ tastes. Better by what measure?
These competitions start slowly. Usually you throw out a slightly less than mainstream band to gauge the person. If they don’t know who Florence and the Machine is, then you know they’re not even close to your level. You scoff. If they do, it builds and builds, with each of you saying that you like more and more obscure bands just so you can name more and more obscure bands. Or you go the other way and start describing your theories about what a piece of pop culture means.
When I was in high school, I was arguing with my brother about if some type of candy was good or not. It wasn’t about if we liked it, but if it was inherently good. At the end, he pulled out the big gun of competitive talking and shouted, “Yeah, well, my taste buds are better than yours.” We made fun of that comeback for a whole year. But that’s what these discussions come down to, our fourteen year old selves screaming that we’re good and so are the things we like.
Don’t do any of this.
For one thing, it’s really hard to win these competitions. Mostly because the other person has to admit defeat and competitive people almost never do. There’s just too much to know. For another, you’re competing for a really meaningless prize. Watching a TV show or movie isn’t an accomplishment. Ever. Liking sophisticated TV really just means that you’ve watched a lot of TV. Nobody without significant TV and media exposure likes 30 Rock. Proving that you have sophisticated tastes is like fighting for a “sitting and staring” merit badge. You can have it.
Sports are bad too. Esoteric sports stats and longwinded histories aren’t why the games are fun.
You’ve probably guessed it by now, but the only way to win these competitions is to surrender. Just let the other person win. Be genuine about what you like and don’t like. Try to connect with the person over a shared media experience instead of trying to prove that you know more. Listen to the other person’s suggestions and give them a chance if they seem reasonable. Remember that people want different things from pop culture. Some want escapism while others want realism. No big deal, just a preference.
Why stop competing? Because having a genuine conversation feels better than having an argument. Because you probably spend too much time chasing down information to use in these mini turf wars. Because you have better things to spend your time and energy on.
I used to think that a guy’s hair is what made him cool so before grade school I would throw a load of gel in my hair, part it to the right and jam it against my skull. Pretty much an Alfafa look. Then in middle school, I decided that the only guy with cool hair was Howie Long so I wore a flat top all through seventh and eighth grade. A military, tough guy haircut didn’t really match my chubby face but I was convinced. Then I stopped thinking that your hair made you cool and started believing it was all about the music you liked. Cool people listen to cool music. That wasn’t right either. I’m not sure what makes a person cool, but are you really still trying to be cool?